Bob Schwartz

Tag: right speech

It’s Not for Me to Say

“It’s not for me to say.”

One of the keynotes of Buddhism and Zen is nondiscrimination, that is, not getting trapped by thinking this is better and that’s worse, this is right and that’s wrong. This doesn’t mean that things aren’t by their nature or manufacture different or preferable, or that you can’t or shouldn’t recognize that. It’s just that clinging to that difference is unhelpful and can be the source of unnecessary conflict.

In the wake of some typically silly arguments, I have an idea for a way to remind myself of this, since it can be so easily forgotten in the heat of the moment.

Confronted by the endless opportunities to offer an opinion, to counter another’s opinion, or just to show off how smart and discerning one thinks one is, consider just reciting this, silently or out loud:

“It’s not for me to say.”

This isn’t a magical mantra, but it is meaningful. Of course, if someone asks for the quickest directions, or how to best cook something, or where to live, you will be welcome to offer your practical knowledge and expertise, if you have those. But often, when the difference of opinion is of no consequence, or of less consequence than the conflict is worth, having no opinion can be the best way.

It may be for someone else to say. But not me.

Admonishing Others

Teachings of the Buddha

I found this tiny advice in the small and excellent collection Teachings of the Buddha from Shambhala Publications. These words are now required reading for me every day:

ONE who is about to admonish another must realize within herself or himself five qualities before doing so. [He or she must intend] thus:

“In due season will I speak, not out of season. In truth will I speak, not in falsehood. Gently will I speak, not harshly. To one’s profit will I speak, not to one’s loss. With kindly intent will I speak, not in anger.”

Adapted from the VINAYA PITAKA,
Translated by F. L. Woodward